Welcome To The Jungle

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
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Trip End Oct 22, 2012


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Friday, August 17, 2012

After spending a week on Easter island, we were only in Lima for a couple of days, before we jumped on a flight to Iquitos in the midst of the Amazon jungle, and is the largest city in the world which is not accessible by road.

We decided to have a bit of a splurge on our Amazon trip, and chose Muyuna, a nice rustic lodge with a great view of the river and one of the furthest and from Iquitos. So we took a 3 hour boat ride 160km down the Amazon River to our lodge which would be our home for the next 2 nights.

We spent the first afternoon with or guide Ceaser going up and down the Amazon tributary where the lodge was looking at the wildlife such as different species of birds, long nosed bats, capuchin monkeys and even a sloth! At this time of year the river is at its lowest, so the wildlife isn't quite as affluent, as they are more likely to be looking for food within the jungle itself, and not by the river bank.  The only downside to seeing wildlife in the wild in its natural setting is you can’t control where it is!

That evening we ate lomo saltado for dinner (a traditional Peruvian dish, consisting of strips of beef fried with peppers and rice) before heading out for our night boat ride down the river.  Here we encountered a huge river snake making its merry way across to the other side. Then our guide fished out the first of 2 caimans (small crocodiles) which are indigenous to the area, which I held for photo ops, which I was slightly apprehensive about, Clare decided to pass.

The next day we got up early and headed down the river to a spot where the world’s largest aquatic flower is found which is called the Victoria Amazonica,  named after Queen Victoria; it is the biggest of all water lilies. After this we pulled up on the banks of the river to have breakfast Amazon style.

We then took a trip along the main Amazon river to go pink river dolphin spotting, we found a few of them, however they were quite a way away so no clear pictures of them.  We then all jumped in the Amazon River which was surprisingly warm and refreshing and paddled about for about 15 minutes before returning to base.   Apparently there are no man eating piranhas or Caymans in the Amazon itself!

In the afternoon we went out to catch piranhas, which would form a part of our dinner. Clare was much better at catching them and managed to catch 7, whereas I only managed 4. Their teeth are really sharp and I wouldn’t want to get bitten by one. They also have vegetarian piranha in the Amazon which feed off berries, however most are meat eaters and cannibals if given the chance.

That evening we went out for a jungle night walk, as you can imagine being the Amazon there were a lot of mosquitoes so Clare and I wrapped up as much as possible before heading off into the night. On our walk we encountered several tarantulas, as well as a couple of big scorpion spiders which our guide picked up and put on his arm, which made all our skin crawl.  We then made it back to our lodge, which had no electricity so everything was under the light of paraffin lamps.

The next day we went of our jungle trek which consisted of a 3 hour walk within the jungle, which was quite muddy so we had to dawn our welly boots. We saw different species of monkeys including the pigmy marmoset which is the smallest monkey in the world.  We also saw rubber trees, and trees which produced a natural laxative to rid the body of infection. Our guide also put his hand into a termites nest which he said was like having a massage on our hand, but we didn’t believe him and didn’t fancy doing the same.  In the afternoon we made the 3 hour boat ride back to Iquitos where we chilled out of the rest of the day.

The next day we got up early and went to the local market in Belen, a typical Amazonian shanty town where the Amazonian jungle folk come to sell their wares.  I’m glad we didn’t find the live animal section but this is where rare and exotic (often endangered) animals are offered up for sale.  Unfortunately the meat section of the market held sights that we hoped we’d never see and the reality of turtle meat for sale.  I believe it is illegal but obviously not policed very well.  There is also the 'Pasaje Paquito’ where the shamens do their shopping.  Here you find a whole host of weird and wonderful plants, herbs, ceremonial skulls and bottles of potions, including Ayahuasca a psychoactive drink used by local shamans in spiritual ceremonies and coca leaves used to combat altitude sickness. 

We then took a motor taxi across town to a manatee rescue centre. Manatees can grow up to 4 metres long, and can weigh nearly 600kg which is no wonder why they are referred to as sea cows.  There are 4 different sub species of Manatee, this type lives exclusively in fresh water in the Amazon, and doesn’t venture into salt water.  These animals are unfortunately still poached and eaten by locals, and some of the Manatees there had been rescued from the live animal section of the Belen market where they are sold as pets for some of the tourist Lodges or as food.  Unfortunately when they keep them as pets they feed them cows milk as babies or meat and they are both vegetarian and lactose intolerant and so they eventually die a slow and painful death.  They are extremely cute and friendly, and we were lucky enough to help the volunteers to feed them at lunchtime which was a great experience. We only wished we had more time so we could stay and work with them for a while to learn more about them.

Our final stop was to a local butterfly farm, and animal rescue centre where we saw many different specifies of butterfly including the Owl Butterfly, which actually attacks other butterflies as they are very territorial and rip at their wings with their feet, which then do not grow back.  We also saw many different species of monkeys, and wild cats including an ocelot and a jaguar, which were also rescued from the local market where they were originally being sold as pets. The person trying to sell the jaguar was unable to find a buyer and so gave it to the rescue centre after several days of only feeding it water.  The poor thing was lucky to survive but unfortunately despite his hatred for humans the Jaguar cannot be released into the wild as it has been around humans too much and may therefore present a danger to the people who live in the jungle.

The whole experience was great and it was awesome to actually see vast swathes of jungle after seeing so much deforestation in Borneo and Malaysia.  That said, deforestation is still rife here too and there is a reminder in the form of a huge logging factory on the banks of the Amazon just as you leave Iquitos.  Learning about the trade and eating of the endangered creatures was also sad and talking to the volunteers there it seems that a huge problem is education.  Despite living in the largest rainforest in the world many of the people who live in it don’t understand the wildlife in it and as tourism and population grow it is important to educate, recycle and do what we can to prevent its loss for future generations.
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